Fatherson: ‘We Just Want to Make Music People Want to Hear’
Marking just their second trip to America as a band, we took advantage of their time in Texas to chat about what's been going on since I Am an Island hit the streets -- and what's on the horizon. From their inception as a trio to the lack of pressure they currently feel for their next record, frontman Ross Leighton, bassist Marc Strain and drummer Greg Walkinshaw opened up about it all during our conversation at SXSW. Check it out below:
So this marks your first time in Austin?
Ross Leighton: Yep. Actually, it’s our first time to SXSW and it's just our second time in America. It’s awesome.
How has the trip been going?
Mark Strain: Really good. So far, it’s been excellent. Last night on 6th Street, it was just absolute madness. Absolute madness.
And you're not just here as tourists; you're playing throughout SXSW.
Ross: Oh yeah, and we’re seeing a bunch of bands we want to see, too. So that’s been great. We’re here for awhile, too.
Greg Walkinshaw: Yeah, we’re just playing a lot of shows. I think we have one day off.
Mark: We all have a few bands we want to catch if we get the chance. It’s so crazy though, just looking at the schedule to see who’s playing when and where. If we get the chance, we want to see as much music as we can.
Are there any standout bands for you?
Mark: I really want to see Twin Shadow. I really, really want to try and catch them.
What brought you to America for your first trip?
Ross: We went to the Yellow Phone conference. We flew in on a Friday and flew home on a Sunday. It was like waking up in America and then being back in bed at home. It was so fast.
What has your experience been like in the states compared to Europe?
Mark: Not even Europe! Before we came to SXSW, we went to New York for a few days and the difference between Austin and New York is just ... it’s like they might as well be different countries. The atmosphere at SXSW is amazing and the people are so friendly. We’re having a really good time so far. We’re loving it.
Ross: New York’s a lot colder, which is nice for me, so I’m not sweating as much. [Laughs]
I Am an Island came out last year. Now that it's out, are you done with it, or do you find yourself revisiting it, reflecting on the process, listening to your favorite tracks?
Mark: Every once in awhile, I’ll find myself putting a track on and I think, “Yeah, this is alright.” It’s funny because we’re just starting to think about new songs again. We toured that album quite a lot, so we’re thinking about new stuff now. The release has gone really well, though.
Greg: And it keeps refreshing, you know? We released it in the U.K. and then mainland Europe and then coming over here, just playing the songs to all new audiences, it keeps things really fresh for us. We’re playing for a lot of new fans at each show. It’s new to everyone here in Austin.
So you're already thinking about new stuff -- is there a firm plan for the follow-up?
Greg: We’re just writing and getting ready to record. That sort of thing. We’re looking forward to it.
Ross: I’m not worried about it. I’m actually excited. You’ve got your whole life to write your first album, people always say that. The second album is like [snaps fingers].
Mark: Right now, yeah, we’re fine. Come back and ask us later this year, and we might be tearing our hair out. [Laughs] As long as we’re making music that people want to hear and we enjoy playing ... there isn’t a lot of upper level pressure to become the biggest band in the world.
Ross: We just want to make music people want to hear.
You don’t feel any pressure from outside forces?
Mark: Not yet. [Laughs]
Greg: We’ll always put the most pressure on ourselves. We seem relaxed, but we’ve been working really hard. It’s just exciting. It’s a fun time.
Mark: It’s hard to be stressed when you’re in the sun.
Ross: And you’ll always be your own worst critic. As soon as you feel comfortable with it, if someone else doesn’t like it, it’s not going to kill you. If we don’t like it, it’s not going to work. That’s how we’ve been, that’s how we’ve always been. We’re not that far away from the second album. We’re not that far away.
As you write new music, do you feel like you've matured as musicians and songwriters?
Mark: We haven’t gone from jazz to polka. That’ll be the EP between this album and the next one. [Laughs]
Ross: Actually, a jazz polka hybrid. With this industry, you learn something new everyday, so yeah, we take bits of inspiration from everywhere.
Mark: You open your eyes to new things, for sure.
Is the writing process collaborative?
Ross: It's probably a lot more driven by me, but not in a bad way. It changes all the time, though. As soon as I come in with an idea, it could become something immediately or it could become something in six months time. We work best when we’re all in a room together.
Greg: We’re not a band that works separately and records on computers and sends each other files. We’re very much ... we just get together and play in a room. That’s how we do it, that’s how we’ve always done it.
Mark: A lot of our songwriting is intuitive. We’ll sit in a room and play one song for an hour without saying a word to each other.
Ross: You can tell when a part works, you know?
How long have you been playing together?
Greg: Technically, this is our first band, so that means since we’ve been 14 years old. We kind of learned how to play together. I think it’s the best part about this band, some people have been following this band for years and years and years. Everyone is growing up with us like a family. It’s awesome.
When you leave SXSW, what's on your horizon?
Ross: We get home for a few days and then we’re down south in England for a bit, then in Germany, then we finish and we’ll probably write the new album in the last two weeks of April. [Laughs] And then festivals start.
Greg: We’re hoping to get back over to the states for a proper tour. That’s why we’re here.
Ross: That would be the dream. Coming from a small town in Scotland and then coming to America, that would be great.
Mark: Yeah, that would be okay. [Laughs]
Fatherson's I Am an Island is out now via A Modern Way. You can pick up a copy of the album here. If you find yourself across the pond in the next couple of weeks, make sure to catch one of Fatherson's currently scheduled gigs -- grab their full itinerary at their official website.